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Posts Tagged ‘Bolivia’

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I don’t know how many times I said the following phrase while on our tour, “I really feel like we’re on another planet.” Now I’ve seen mountains many times over the years, in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, upstate New York, Vermont, Switzerland, and now Peru and Bolivia, but I have never seen the differing landscapes and colors that I saw over our tour of southwest Bolivia. Every corner we turned provided new landscapes, differing colored mountains, volcanoes, geysers, and even a rock that looked like a tree.

On the first day, we found ourselves describing our surroundings like the American Southwest. The rock formations were very similar to a part of Arches National Park in Moab, Utah called the Fiery Furnace (only they weren’t red).

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As we went along on the tour though, the landscape changed. There were mountains, and they reminded us a bit of the Painted Desert in Arizona, only much more dramatic. All four of us found the scenery breathtaking. It was funny to hear everyone try to describe what we were seeing. The plethora of different shades of colors on each separate sandy mountain was a sight to see. Steve described it as one of those different colored sand things framed in glass. Megan described it as someone kicking several different colored cans of paint down the mountain. I described it as God taking a package of colored chalk, throwing it on the mountain, and stomping on it with his foot. All were apt descriptions. And the thing was that every mountain was different. Some had different shades of reds, oranges, and yellows, some had different shades of grays, whites, and blacks, some greens and blues. And it was all surrounded by desert, which provided a great contrast to the mountains.

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While the previous pictures provided us our scenery for much of the middle two days of the tour, like I have repeatedly said, it was constantly changing. Towards the end of the second day, after we saw Laguna Verde and drove through much of the area from the above pics, we came across the Sol de Manana Geysers, which was a first for either of us. This area was 5000 meters above sea level, and we saw the power of the Earth (or at least I think it was Earth) up close. This area was intensely volcanic and the temperatures within the bubbling, steaming mud pools can reach up to 90 degrees Celsius (over 200 degrees F).

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Another interesting part of our journey was the Arbol de Piedra in the Desierto de Siloli. We arrived here on our third day. The Arbol de Piedra is a tree shaped rock formation, which has been formed over the years by sand and wind driven against its sides to give it its distinctive shape. While the Arbol de Piedra was impressive itself, again, we were greeted with great views from every direction. The formation we came to see was surrounded by all different types of other rock formations, which was set in the middle of a desert, and then surrounded by differed colored mountains like the ones above.

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While I was continually impressed with everything we saw over the four days, the reason we came on this tour (and the one main reason we came to Bolivia, even though we soon found out there’s so much more to this wonderful country) was the Salar de Uyuni itself. But that deserves its own post, and it will have to wait for next time.

Until then…

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No, we’re just in Bolivia.

I found myself asking this question multiple times on our four day tour through the Salar de Uyuni. First, the tour name is a little misleading as we didn’t even see the famous Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni) until the morning of our fourth day. It would be more accurate to describe this as a tour of southwest Bolivia.

On this tour that brought us through a good portion of the southwestern part of the country, I was constantly astounded at the uniqueness and beauty that surrounded us. The entire country of Bolivia has been this way, but it was never more evident than in our four day jeep trip. This tour brought us through such a myriad of landscapes that the four of us (Megan and I, and Steve and Lisa, from Australia-who were fantastic traveling companions for this four day trip) found ourselves using words like “lunar” and “Mars” to describe our surroundings.

So instead of the usual chronological posts about a trip like this, I have decided to change it up a little bit. I’m not going to give a blow by blow account of everything we did from day one until day four. Instead, I’m going to break it down into three different posts intertwining all four days that I feel will accurately depict what we experienced over this four day tour: Lagoons, Landscape, and Salar de Uyuni.

Lagoons

On the morning of the second day of our tour, we came across the first of many lagoons that we saw over the course of the trip. This particular one was the Laguna Morejo, which was at 4855 meters.

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The great thing about the lagoons was that they were all different. Every one we saw had a certain uniqueness to it, which really became the theme to the four day tour. Every corner we came around, every direction we turned, it seemed as though it was completely different. I have never experienced anything like it before. We have been fortunate to see some beautiful and unique things throughout all our travels since we have been together, but I have never been as speechless as I was during the Salar de Uyuni tour (and for those of you who know me, “speechless” usually isn’t how people describe me).

Another great thing about the lagoons was the wildlife that was abundant in them, particularly the pink flamingos. We first saw them at the first lagoon named Laguna Hedionda (there was a second lagoon of the same name on the third day). There were at least a hundred pink flamingos chilling out in the shallow lagoon, most sticking their heads underneath the water eating. We tried to be as quiet as possible approaching them so we could get some good pictures, but once they heard our presence, they all took off flying. At first we were bummed, but luckily Megan was ready with camera in hand, and she managed to get some great pictures of the flamingos flying off in unison, their reflections in the lagoon below. It was a fantastic sight to see.

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(Aside: In the above pics, you will also notice clumps of salt in the lagoons. We saw salt in bits and pieces as we set out our first day, and as went along and got closer to the Salt Flats themselves, more and more clumps and piles of salt came about.)

Soon after we left Laguna Hedionda, we came across another lagoon and our first salt flat. It was kind of odd that one was called a lagoon and the other a salar, as Kollpa Laguna didn’t much look like a lagoon as it did a huge lake of salt, and Salar de Chalvari looked more like a lagoon, but hey, they didn’t ask me to name them, so I’ll try to refrain from criticism. As you can see in the pictures below, Kollpa Laguna almost looks like a frozen lake in the wintertime that has been covered in snow, but there is no snow, only salt. There were so many different colors evident in the salt as well, which created a very interesting and unique look.

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The Salar de Chalvari was a stopping point, first because there was a hot spring for us to relax in, as we had been working so hard sitting in a jeep for six hours, and then for lunch. In the Salar de Chalvari pictures, you can notice the steam coming up from all around the water, and at the front of all three pics, there is a small pool, which is where we all got to hang out for about a half hour before lunch in the almost 100 degree water. It was quite relaxing.

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Near where we stayed on the second night was Laguna Colorada, which is where we spent the first hour or so on the third morning. Again, flamingos were everywhere at this lagoon, and there were mountains all around, some reflecting in the lagoon. Salt was again everywhere, and some of the different minerals around us gave parts of the lagoon a reddish hue. Again, the rainbow of colors was astounding.

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We were lucky enough to see many flamingos in the lagoons, but the second Laguna Hedionda provided flamingos that didn’t seem too scared of us. At one point, I was about 10 feet away from some, and they didn’t seem to mind at all. This lagoon wasn’t the most spectacular, but it did afford us the chance to get several up close and personal pics of the flamingos.

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While Laguna Colorada was a great way to start the day, we saw the most spectacular of the lagoons the day before, Laguna Verde. Verde is the Spanish word for green, so we knew we were in for something out of the ordinary while driving there. When we were driving towards what we thought was Laguna Verde, we saw a lagoon that was kind of green, but it was a bit of a letdown. Then we turned the corner, and I heard my wife gasp. Like I stated earlier, turning corners became quite exciting because we knew we were most likely in for a treat every time we did so. This was no exception. We had jumped the gun, and the first lagoon we saw was not in fact Laguna Verde, because once we turned this corner, there was no doubt where we were. The rich color in the Lagoon is caused by high arsenic and magnesium content in the water (see, I told you it was like we weren’t even on Earth anymore). The pics look good, but honestly, it was much more dramatic in person. The pictures, while great, really don’t do it justice.

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While the lagoons were impressive and provided some beautiful scenery for the four day tour, to me, the constantly changing landscapes and abundance of differing colors in the mountains and rock formations awed me most, but that will have to be saved for next time.

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The final morning of our Pampas tour, I again awoke to strange sounds on the roof of our cabin. I poked my head out the door and promptly grabbed my camera. The squirrel monkeys had decided that Thanksgiving morning was playtime! There must have been twenty or thirty of them bounding around in the trees and through our camp. Lucky for me and my lack of zoom lens, some of them were braver than others. One even snuck into our cabin!

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After a little more relaxing (as I mentioned in my post on Thanksgiving), we headed out to a section of the river known to be popular with pink dolphins (and unpopular with alligators). After making sure to watch our guide go in first, we all slipped into the water to take a dip. My heart was racing at the idea of swimming in the same river that was home to those thousands of gators I mentioned earlier, but I was quickly distracted by the pinkish hued dolphins breaking the surface of the muddy water nearby. The dolphins were amazing—it was so surprising to begin with to even see dolphins in a river. Then, once you accepted that they were really there, you were surprised again by their appearance. They had huge protruding foreheads and were a very light pinkish gray color. The coolest part was listening to them. Floating on my back with my ears below the surface of the water, I could hear them calling to each other with clicks and squeals. I felt like I was getting to experience another world (you’ll notice this is a theme on our comments on Bolivia!). I had no idea what they were saying to each other, but knowing that I was hearing intelligent animals communicating was just remarkable. Unfortunately, we weren´t able to get any pictures, so you´ll just have to take my word for it, they were very cool.

After our swim, we were headed back to Rurre. We piled back into the dusty jeep and started off on our several hour drive: Adam and I, Catherine from New Zealand, Domingo and our driver. Shortly after we set out, the driver reached over and popped a jump drive into the stereo (priorities: No A/C and no seatbelts, but a USB-equipped stereo!). For the next few hours, we were entertained by a steady stream of 70’s 80s, and 90s hits. We tried to conceal our surprised looks when a disco dance mix started playing—one song right into the next—YMCA, We Are Family, etc. Once we had a good sampling of the seventies, we moved right into the eighties—Gloria (which immediately made us look at each other and say “Angie P!”), Thriller, some Madonna and few other classics. Finally we moved on to the nineties, which, although not our cup of tea musically, was the absolute highlight. For over an hour, we listened to bubble-gum pop music—Brittney Spears, Back Street Boys, some Michael Jackson ballads, etc.—and watched our guide get down with the music. We are talking about a tough guy, probably at least six feet tall, with missing front teeth, scars from gator and piranha bites covering his arms and hands, and most notably, a machete strapped to his leg that was the length of his entire thigh–seriously, it stretched nearly from hip to knee. Here was this hardened jungle guide, bouncing and grooving in his seat, drumming on the dashboard and singing along with the king and queen of pop! It was one more example of never knowing what to expect in Bolivia.

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The first morning at our lodge (so the second day of the Pampas tour), our wakeup call came in the form of roaring howler monkeys. The howling started before dawn and is a sound like no other I have ever heard before. It is a low guttural sound, almost similar to a distant motor (a big motor!), but still a very distinct sound. After the howlers did their job, we headed out on our one scheduled hike of the tour: the search for Anacondas and Cobras. Anacondas in the pampas can reach 12-15 feet and capture their prey by squeezing then swallowing it whole. (Bad news for small critters in the pampas, no worries for big old humans.) The cobra had me a little more worried as it is actually venomous. We were assured that any cobras we might encounter didn’t have enough venom to kill a human, only to make one really sick (it’s amazing what kind of comments you begin to find reassuring on a trip like this!).

Before setting out, we had been warned that the bugs, mainly ticks and mosquitoes, would be bad, and that we would be tromping our way through swampy ground and forests. In an effort to fend off as many itchy bug bites as possible, we followed our guide’s instructions for gearing up (although I’m not completely discounting the idea that he just gets a giggle out of making gringos look super dorky!):

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Lucky for us, our humiliation paid off when we heard shouts from a nearby tour guide that he had found an anaconda. Domingo beat us there and was in the process of moving the snake when we showed up on the scene.

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I was watching the anaconda (and not necessarily what was in its path) when I heard Domingo say the words that made me freeze in my tracks: “Don’t move, Adam. It won’t hurt you.” I looked up and realized that the boots that were inches away from this six-foot long snake belonged to my husband! I can say pretty confidently that I would have taken off running if the anaconda had decided to cozy up with my feet, but Adam held his ground.

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After Adam’s close encounter, we spotted were lucky enough to spot another anaconda—another group the day before had hiked for five hours without seeing any snakes. Domingo then gave us the option of continuing on the search to look for cobras or heading back to camp for lunch. Hmmm, leisurely boat ride to lunch or sweaty hunt for a venomous snake? Tough choice! After having lunch, we set out to catch our dinner—Piranha fishing!

We baited our hooks with some kind of raw meat (yes, gross) and began what I was expecting to be a fairly leisurely afternoon. The piranha had different plans though. Every time I threw my line into the water, I could immediately feel a flurry of little tugs. A quick yank on the line revealed an empty hook nearly every time. Domingo, expert that he was, showed us how it was done:

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After a few pointers, Adam started to get the hang of it:

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Finally, it was my turn for glory. A well timed yank on my line confirmed that I had in fact, hooked a Pirhana. I pulled it in to the boat and turned to Adam to take it off the hook for me. He abandoned me in my time of need encouraged me to improve my fishing skills by doing it myself. I bravely grasped the man-eating fish in one hand and the hook in the other. The fish started squirming, and I, forgetting the whole big teeth aspect of pirhana, freaked out and loosened my grip. Not smart. I promptly had a pirhana latched on to the tip of my index finger. I threw the fish down into the bottom of the boat and shouted “F***er bit me!!” Domingo rushed over to make sure that I was intact. He frantically looked around the boat to find my attacker. And he looked. And looked. Finally I pointed down below adam’s seat, where the fish was flopping around. Domingo promptly burst out laughing. In his defense, he tried to suppress the giggles, but apparently my scene was just too much for him. He picked up the fish and gently explained to me that yes, I had caught a piranha, and yes, that was good, but unfortunately, this particular man-eating beast wasn’t big enough to eat for dinner. In fact, it wasn’t even big enough to cut up and use as bait to catch other piranha. It was after hearing that pronouncement that I declared my retirement from Piranha fishing. Lucky for me, Adam and Domingo picked up the slack and caught enough fish for us to have a nice piranha dinner.

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After Piranha fishing, we made a stop at another camp to hang out. It took all of about 90 seconds for a soccer game to break out. Since I stuck to my role as photographer, I’ll let Adam fill you in on the excitement:

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When we arrived, everyone was playing volleyball, but after just a few minutes, everyone decided to play a real sport. So a futbol game started. We decided to play the Bolivianos vs. the Gringos. It was 6 v. 6, and the Gringos team wasn’t very good at first. Only two of us seemed to have any soccer experience, myself and a girl from California. There was one other guy from California who had played before, and then two Canadians, who probably would have been better served to have ice skates and hockey sticks in their hands. We played to three, and the first game was over rather quickly.

But we decided to play another game, and we seemed to get our act together the second game and actually challenged the Bolivianos. It was interesting playing barefoot on a dirt field, obviously with no lines, small goals, and one sideline that consisted of barbed wire fencing. And of course a game in South America wouldn’t have been complete without the hot-dogging, diving, and acting of one of the Bolivianos. Even though the Gringos held their own, we still fell 3-2, but we gave them a good game. It was quite the experience playing a pick-up game of soccer, which just doesn’t happen back home, even though that’s the game I grew up playing, loving, and now enjoy coaching. It’s something that I’ll always remember from this part of the trip.

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Megan: After the soccer game (in which I have to brag that Adam was definitely the best of the gringos), we spent the evening after dinner getting to know the new tour group that had showed up that afternoon. We whiled away the evening swinging in hammocks, sipping cold beer and alternating between chatting and singing along with one of the guys who was playing the guitar. Adam and I realized that the following day would be the first Thanksgiving either of us had spent away from home. I was definitely sad to not be able to share the day with my family, but having that evening and that opportunity to meet a whole new group of interesting people from around the world, to be able to discuss their views and travels, there in such an absolutely amazing setting—well, the gratitude I felt for that was just overwhelming.

It was a very good day.

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“You’re going to the jungle, aren’t you??”

We’ve heard this phrase more times than I can count. I was never really surprised to hear it—it’s one of those things that is kind of assumed to be on the itinerary when you’re spending half a year in South America. Needless to say, people were always a little surprised when we waffled on the answer. We felt like we should—we were spending half a year in South America after all—but I wasn’t convinced.

For starters, I had visions of being surrounded by bugs as big as my head. I was expecting creepy crawlies everywhere I looked. I felt like venturing into the jungle would be an adventure for sure, but honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to shell out for the adventure of hiding indoors, praying that I wouldn’t get eaten by some prehistoric-sized bug when I did summon the courage to venture out. We also kind of looked at the jungle trip as one that could be taken later as a discreet trip, perhaps when we weren’t travelling on a backpacker’s budget and could splurge on one of the more luxurious eco-lodges, thereby avoiding sharing a bedroom with the aforementioned creepy crawlies.

However, as with most of our plans on this trip, one change led to another. Once the political climate stabilized and we decided to come to Bolivia, we began hearing about a place called the Pampas. There are two popular tours going out of Rurrenabaque, Bolivia: one in the jungle and one in the Pampas. The jungle is exactly what you think it is. The Pampas is the name for the Amazon savannahs. As we researched the two, the Pampas immediately intrigued us. The Pampas tours were reputed to include significantly more wildlife sightings and significantly fewer prehistoric-sized bug sightings. Also, on the Pampas tours, you spend a good amount of time cruising up and down the river, whereas on the jungle tours, you spend a good amount of time hiking around the steamy jungle on foot. No contest, as far as I was concerned.

After a bone-jarring fourteen hour bus ride to Rurrenabaque, we departed on our Pampas tour two days before Thanksgiving. The drive out to the Santa Rosa wildlife reserve was dusty and bumpy, but our ride was sturdy and our driver seemed to know the road like the back of his hand.

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After driving for half a day, we arrived at the River Yacuma. Our guide predicted rain as he loaded up our dugout canoe for the three hour ride down the river to our camp.

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As promised, the rain began shortly after we set out on the boat. Once again, though, we lucked out and never really got soaked. In fact, the light rain really only served to cool things off a bit. It was only sprinkling when we saw our first alligator. Our guide, Domingo, promptly pulled our boat right up on the shore, no more than five feet away from this guy:

***OK, I´m having some wordpress issues, so the remaining pictures for this post will be on Flickr, and you can find them here.  I know this is a completely hoopty way of posting stories and pictures, but for some reason I just cannot get the remaining pictures to show up here on the blog.  Gah.  Anyway, here´s the link to all the pictures for this post:

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Happily for us, he didn’t mind too much—when he got tired of us, he just dove into the water (rather than going ahead and having us for a snack, which was my initial fear!) The rest of the afternoon’s trip to our camp was amazing. We saw more wildlife than I ever imagined possible.

In the span of a few hours, we saw thousands of gators (yes, thousands. At one point, we counted the number of gators we saw in a five minute period. Fifty-one. Everywhere you turned, there were gators: some by themselves, some in large groups, some swimming, some just lounging on the shore. And some, the most ominous, were only visible because you could see their eyes hovering just above the water).  There was also one that didn’t seem quite as ominous. In fact, he was so docile that another guide looked downright bored when our guide walked up to the gator and was petting him on the head!!

While the gators were exciting and a bit scary, it had been the possibility of seeing a real-live R.O.U.S.* that had really sold me on the trip in the first place, so our first Capybara sighting was too exciting for a dork like me. Despite being the world’s largest rodent, the Capybaras were quite cute. Most of them were having a riverside snack or cooling off in the water. Amazingly, they seemed to be quite comfortable being surrounded by gators, despite the fact that the Capybaras are natural prey of the gators.

In addition to the gators and capybara, we saw rows of turtles sunning themselves on logs and countless birds—egrets, herons, cormorants, eagles, hawks, vultures, cardinals and birds of paradise, just to name a few!

As if that wasn’t enough for the day, we wrapped things up with this sunset:

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*They may not have been living in a fire swamp, but these were definitely rodents of unusual size. Name that movie!

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Disclaimer:  We did a bike ride Friday with the above title.  It was slightly dangerous, but it was a decision made by both myself and my wife to do it.  We successfully completed it with no injuries; however, the bike ride is called this for a reason, so read on at your own discretion.

 

When researching Bolivia, we always read about the so-called World’s Most Dangerous Road bike ride.  It is a bike ride that begins about an hour outside of La Paz at the top of a mountain at 4660 meters.  You then proceed to descend over 3400 meters, riding 80 kilometers, into the jungle.  The road got its name in the mid-1990’s because, statistically, it had the most deaths (by way of car, not bike) on a road in the world.  The road is steep and twisting and clings to the side of sheer cliffs with 800 meter drop offs.  So of course after the road received its name, some people had the bright idea of riding bikes down it and capitalizing on dumb tourists like ourselves to shell out a good amount of money to possibly ride a bike to our deaths. 

Now when reading about this before we came here, we both thought, “What kind of moron rides on a road dubbed the “World’s Most Dangerous Road” or “The Death Road”?  After talking to many people who have done the ride and reading all about it on message boards, we decided to at least inquire about it.  So we went to Gravity Assisted Mountain Biking, who had the best reviews for both safety and professionalism by far of the hundreds of different companies in La Paz who do this ride.  They have a nearly impeccable safety record, only one death in the 10 years this company has been doing the ride (far better than every single other company doing the ride). 

So went to Gravity on Thursday to find more out about the ride.  We read a bunch about it and talked to a guy at their office for quite a while.  We felt as safe as we were going to, so to answer my own question from above, I guess we are the kind of morons who do something like this.  In my opinion, it was a very wise decision (depending on your definition of wise, of course).  So we went on the ride on Friday, leaving La Paz at 7:30am with a group of seven, two guides, a driver, a jeep, and nine bicycles.

We drove out of La Paz and went straight up.  After about 45 minutes of driving, we came to a checkpoint, where our guide pointed out the death toll sign for the road for this year on the side of the road.  It read 43.  He also pointed out that was the official death toll, and they all knew that the unofficial toll was higher.  Now we were starting to get a little nervous and wondered why again we would do something seemingly so stupid.

After a short ride, we arrived at the top.  It was cloudy.  And that is an understatement.  We were, again, in the clouds.  Only this time we weren’t hiking and enjoying the views, we were supposed to ride down this road with about 10 meters of visibility, on a slick road, sharing it with cars.  Yes, we are the morons who not only decided to do this, but PAID to do it. 

After getting all of our safety gear, which was a fair amount (even though all the helmets, gloves, pants, jackets, etc. certainly wouldn’t do much good in a 800 meter fall off a cliff, but that’s neither here nor there), we were almost ready to go.  We all received our bikes individually, with our guide going over all the features with us.  He prepped us for about 15-20 minutes on the rules and procedures for riding, reminding us of Gravity’s record of safety and the reason for that record.  Everyone HAD to follow the rules or end up riding down in the jeep.

So, finally, we were off.  A guide started us off, with each person in the group following at a minimum of four jeep lengths.  The second guide brought up the rear, with our jeep right behind.  We would have 17 stopping points along the way to make sure we were all doing well, and they checked the bikes to make sure everything was working properly at every stop (see, perfectly safe). 

The first part of the ride was not my favorite.  The visibility was low, it was extremely cold, raining at times, and the road was paved, which made it somewhat slicker.  And this was supposed to be the easier part (I thought it was harder, Megan thought it was easier).  At least the sheer cliffs weren’t present, yet.

After about an hour or so (and several stops, one about every 15 minutes), we came to a resting point and had our first snack.  We were now off the paved road.  The paved road is the new road, and it is paved all the way down to the bottom.  We went off the paved road to the gravel road (which can still be used by cars, but thankfully there were NONE the day we did the ride).  When we entered the gravel road, we were officially on the “World’s Most Dangerous Road”.  We were again prepped with safety precautions, going over all the rules and the changes now that we were going to be on a road that was gravel, narrower, and had different rules for passing and dealing with the possibility of cars.

So again, we were off.  We were out of the clouds, which was good, but the sheer cliffs (with no guard rails) were now easily visible, which was not so good.  Our guide told us that the first two sections would be a good indicator of whether or not we were going to like the rest (and longest part) of the ride.  If we hated these first two sections or felt uneasy about them, we could ride down in the jeep.  He told us that many people decide to do this, and it was no big deal if we were not feeling confident.

I’m not going to lie, it was a little disconcerting at first, but honestly, I thought it was better than the first section that was supposedly “easier”.  The visibility factor was huge, and the fact that we didn’t encounter any cars was also huge.  Again, the Pachamama was on our side and we got great weather with no rain the rest of the way, so again, that made it easier.  We stopped often, and our bikes were constantly being checked, so that built our confidence as well.  But each time we gained confidence, our guide reminded us not to get too confident because that was the number one reason for accidents. 

The extra money we plopped down for going with Gravity was money well spent.  They were very professional and kept us informed and safe throughout the entire day.  As the day went on, everyone in the group realized what order we should go in, so passing each other was at a minimum, which was also safer.  I personally got braver as the ride went on, going faster and faster, which was a huge adrenaline rush and made the ride spectacular, for me.  Others decided to keep riding their brakes most of the way down, feeling safer and more confident.  It was a personal preference for each person, and the guides were great to encourage everyone to go at their own comfort. 

We started the ride at about 9am and finished at about 2pm.  Five hours of nothing but a descent down a mountain, with spectacular views all around us.  It was awesome and an incredible experience.  When we started, most of us had on at least 3-4 layers, with hats and gloves.  When we finished, we were all stripped down to t-shirts and sweating profusely.  At the bottom, we all met at a lodge that is an animal refuge.  We all received our free beer and t-shirts proclaiming that we survived “The World’s Most Dangerous Road”.  There were all types of animals running around, including several monkeys who were very affectionate, jumping in our laps, playing around on our bags, and in one case, pooping on Megan’s backpack.

We all had lunch together at the animal refuge and were able to take showers (our first hot showers in about 2 weeks).  After lunch, several people from the tour went up to Coroico, which is a town we passed, about 7 kilometers up from the bottom. 

Our cab that took us up to Coroico was a huge truck, and we all sat in the back with our luggage.  It was a really cool experience, one that made us realize again how lucky we were to be on this trip.  Here we were, in freaking Bolivia of all places, after riding the “World’s Most Dangerous Road”, riding in the back of a pick-up truck with another American, two Ozzies, and one Kiwi, talking about travel and the differences in our cultures. 

This (the car ride, not the bike ride), was a huge reason why we wanted to come on this trip.  We all stayed in the same hostel, which is set above the town amidst a jungle, with a pool, hammocks, and a stunning setting.  The place we are staying at also has a restaurant, and Megan and I and Katherine, a woman from New Zealand (who has lived in London for the past 9 years and is traveling for 7 weeks, by herself, before moving to Sydney), decided to eat at the restaurant.  We had a wonderful time before being joined by four more people from our ride who randomly ended up at the same restaurant (3 Brits and a Swiss man).  The other three who were staying at the same place joined us as well, and we had a marvelous time eating and drinking and talking and telling stories about our travels, our countries, our cultures, and anything else under the sun. 

Again, this is why we are doing this.  It’s so eye-opening and beneficial to experience other cultures and talk to people from around the world.  I think it would do everyone some good to be able to chat with others and get their viewpoints about certain things, whether it’s politics, travel, education, food, television, whatever.  Just to see the differences and similarities of other cultures makes one more accepting and understanding and more likely not to buy into typical stereotypes, and I personally believe that makes the world a much better place to live in.

We leave this afternoon for a 14 hour bus trip to Rurrenabaque, which is a jumping off point for trips into the Amazon Jungle.  Our computer is officially shot as far as internet goes, but we have been typing up posts and picking out pictures, so there is a small gallery that I uploaded from the internet cafe for this post.  We have a few more posts ready to go (from Copacabana and Lake Titicaca) that we can hopefully get up next weekend when we get back to La Paz.  We´re just having to adjust with no computer of our own, but we really want to keep the blog going because it´s so nice to be able to communicate with everyone who´s reading it.   

Have a Happy Thanksgiving everyone, we are going to miss pigging out on turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green bean casserole, pumpkin pie, drinking beer and wine, and watching football.  Think of us as we’re in the jungle Thursday getting mauled by mosquitos and seeing monkeys, anacondas, alligators, pink dolphins, and eating rice and tuna (again, I ask the question, what kind of moron does this again?).

Until then, love you all and miss you!!

~Adam        

      

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1 month, 31 days, 2nd country

So we made our way to Copacabana, Bolivia today.  Strike over, no complications getting here, Puno, good riddance.

It´s hard to believe that we´re over a month into our journey.  It´s honestly a weird feeling.  One minute it seems like we just left, and the next it seems like we´ve been gone forever.  It´s even harder to believe that we´re going to be gone for another 11 months.

A few things about the first month and going forward. 

The first month was such a whirlwind of emotions.  It was great, obviously, but it was also really hard at times.  What we´re doing is a trip, and it´s way different than a vacation.  On vacations we don´t sleep in lumpy beds with bathrooms that sometimes flush and sometimes have hot water.  We don´t stay in places where the walls are paper thin and we get woken up at 4am by a screaming orgasm from a room down the hall (two out of three nights).  On vacations, we don´t generally go to a city and get woken up by dog fights and roosters crowing (IN A BIG CITY, WHO THE HELL HAS A ROOSTER???–besides my parents crazy neighbor).  We also typically know what we´re ordering when we go to a restaurant.  Here, it´s been a crapshoot at times.

But all this stuff has been part of the fun, and frankly, we´re getting used to it.  Our Spanish is vastly improving by the day.  We no longer get hives and panic when we don´t understand what someone is saying to us.  We don´t even ask anymore what it is we´re ordering.  We just order and take the chance. 

So this whole long term travel thing is getting easier by the day.  We still miss everyone and St. Louis A TON, and we talk all the time about the different things we miss.  We´re thrilled to be here and be doing this, and we´re thrilled to be in country number two.

We arrived in Copacabana, Bolivia this morning, and it´s beautiful.  We are staying here tonight and taking off for Isle del Sol tomorrow morning, which is an island on Lake Titicaca.  We will stay there tomorrow night, and then be back here for at least Monday and Tuesday, possibly longer.  Next up is La Paz.  There is no wireless anywhere here that we´ve found (not that we know whether our computer will actually work anyway), so pics on the blog will be fewer, but hopefully we´ll take a day next week and sit in an internet cafe and get a bunch of pictures uploaded.

So long for now…

Adam

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